Melbourne City boss Patrick Kisnorbo praised the character of his patched-up side as they came from behind to beat Brisbane Roar on Wednesday night.
City are priced at 6/4 to win the 2021/22 A-League grand final and picked up a crucial three points against a Roar side who were buoyed by a 4-1 win over Perth Glory on Saturday.
Brisbane carried that confidence into the game and took the lead through Henry Hore and had further chances to increase it.
But City stood firm and managed to win the game thanks to an own goal from Brisbane star Kai Trewin and a further strike from youngster Raphael Borges Rodrigues who was making his first start of the season.
City were without Socceroos quartet Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe and Marco Tilio, along with Scott Jamieson and Nuno Reis.
"I thought we showed some great character but that's what we've been building for three years," Kisnorbo told reporters after the game. "It just hasn't happened overnight.
"There's some things we need to work on. Some improvements but, overall, I was very happy."
Meanwhile Roar boss Warren Moon was disappointed his side could not build on their lead and also rued the goals they let in.
"Tough loss I have to say," Moon said. "We took the lead. We started brightly. We created chances and just so bitterly disappointed with the type of goals we conceded. We sit here now knowing we've missed an opportunity."